Monday, 6 April 2015

First Day on the Beat

I'm a little late in posting this, but last week I had my first solo experience of being a volunteer mooring warden for the Canal and River Trust.  My patch covers the Lancaster Canal from the city centre up to the current northern terminus at Tewitfield. (The canal itself continues to Kendal, but navigation is blocked by the small matter of the M6 motorway!)

The distance (by canal) is about 20km and covers four sites. (The volunteers only monitor the 48hr moorings). It's too far to walk, but easily cycled or  -as I did this time - I can use the bus. Lancaster, Carnforth and Tewitfield are all linked by the 555 service, just leaving the site at Hest Bank to be reached by the 5 or 55. All these services only run once an hour however, so planning is essential. (The Trust does pay "petrol money" but I don't intend to use my car).

I started at Lancaster, where I was surprised to find that in the short time since my induction, new signs had appeared re-designating part of the 48hr moorings as "7 days". I had been warned this would happen at some time, but didn't expect it this soon. I recorded the boats on each site separately, which was just as well, as when I came to input them to the database there was no field for the 7-day section and I'm not even sure I'm supposed to be checking it.

The Lancaster site isn't very far from the bus station - certainly not worth paying a bus fare for, but I have a old codgers' bus pass that allows free travel so I waited for my free ride. That was nearly my undoing as there was quite a wait for a bus, which then got held up in traffic causing me to almost miss my connection with the 55 to Hest Bank.

I had either 17 minutes or an hour at Hest Bank. Seventeen should have been long enough, but I compromised my position by getting off the bus two stops early in error. That, coupled with the fact that I'd forgotten exactly where the site boundaries were and spent some time checking for the signs (which haven't been updated yet) meant that the number 5 had come and gone before I'd finished and I had to wait the rest of the hour for the next 55.  It didn't matter: anyone who knows the canal at Hest Bank will know the superb views over Morecambe Bay to the Lake District fells beyond and it was no hardship to spend the time here.

The timetable gave me a more reasonable 20 minutes at Carnforth and the compact site here was easily checked before the 555 arrived to take me on to the furthest point of my journey at Tewitfield.
I had the best part of an hour here - far too long despite the large site to be checked - but the bus stops outside the Greenlands Garden Centre and its upmarket cafe - ideal for tea and cake, even though I wasn't on expenses.

Here I nearly came unstuck once again. The bus stop at Tewitfield doesn't boast a timetable display - in fact for northbound buses it doesn't even boast a bus stop sign. I thought I knew the time of the bus anyway, but fortunately decided to check on my phone using the Bus Checker app. At first I was surprised that no bus was shown at the time I expected - in fact no bus was shown for nearly three hours - but then I remembered that occasional journeys on the 555 divert off the main road to serve Borwick village and therefore miss out Tewitfield - and the bus I wanted was one of them- as was the next! Borwick is almost 2 km from Tewitfield and I had about 15 minutes to get there. The quickest way was down the towpath, then a farm track to the village and a rather frantic search for a bus stop - I made it in 13 minutes - the bus came 10 minutes later!

I'll try an post a few photos of "my" patch - here are the Tewitfield moorings.
48 hour moorings at Tewitfield. Lovely - if you don't mind the noise from the M6

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